Friday, November 13, 2009

A New Day Dawns

I'm not sure if I've written about this before, and I'm feeling too lazy to check back-posts to make sure, but despite the heinousity (new word!) of having to wake up sometime between 4 AM and 5 AM on days when I'm making deliveries in the city, there is something very special to me about being up and about this early, before the city wakes up. I feel like I'm getting to see something that not everyone gets to see, that I'm in on a secret that I share only with the other weary souls trudging off to work before the sun comes up. I can feel the city breathing deeply, its pulse slow and steady as it holds on to the precious few moments of slumber it has left until it has to wake up and face the new day. And while you're never all alone anywhere in New York (it's called the city that never sleeps for a reason) it's these times that I get the closest to a sense of solitude that I think one can find here, as well as a true sense of the immensity of this place. You see the trucks getting started on their routes, the doormen and porters cleaning up the front of their apartment buildings, and you know that there is a giant laying in wait that will soon awaken and the streets will be teeming with people getting to work and cabs honking their way down the street. Plus there's the beauty of driving over the GW Bridge as the sun's rising behind Manhattan. Fucking hell, that shit's amazing.

As unpleasant as it may initially seem, I think everyone should have the experience of taking in a place pre-dawn and really paying attention to what's going on around them as their neighborhood wakes up. This is something I've always been really into. In high school I would on occasion stay up all night or just get up really early and go for a long walk. I liked to go by the bagel place by my high school and get a raisin bagel fresh out of the oven or stop by the five-star diner, home to the cheapest breakfast special you're likely to find that close to NYC (one time on the way to the bathroom in the back of the shop I noticed a crate of eggs labelled "Grade D" hence the cheapness.) It just gave me a sense of calm that I really can't compare to anything else.

One of my favorite New York moments when I really felt a great love for the city, and for Brooklyn specifically, came last year sometime. I had been out late with a bunch of friends, and we somehow ended up eating at this huge all-night African-food buffet on Fulton St. and Bedford Ave. (and I know it's fucked up to just say "African-food" but I honestly have no clue what area it was from. It was definitely sub-saharan though, if that helps. And not Ethiopian either.) All the folks I was with lived in Crown Heights (I live in Greenpoint), so we parted ways and I decided that it would do me good to walk home. My friends thought it was a little sketchy, but I felt that I knew the terrain well enough, and it was just a straight shot down Bedford. It was 3 AM or so at this point, and it was incredible to go north on Bedford and really see block-by-block how the negihborhoods change, from Crown Heights to Bed-Stuy to South Williamsburg to North Williamsburg to Greenpoint. I had ridden my bike that way countless times, but you get a whole new feel for the streets and your surroundings on foot.

I think I'll wrap up with the thought that there are a million different ways to get to know a place, especially one as vast and multi-faceted as New York. In fact, this would be a good project. It could be called "Getting to Know You," and it would be a collection of stories from people about a specific way they've gotten to know where they live. I like it.